ABUJA, NIGERIA – Authorities in Nigeria have asked Google to shut down YouTube channels and live streams associated with separatist and terrorist groups.
The Nigerian government is looking into regulating social media use in the country, which has a population of over 200 million and is home to millions of internet users. YouTube, Twitter (TWTR.N), Facebook (META.O), and Tiktok are among the platforms that are popular
The federal government has several problems with Google and with other internet companies. It has been engaged in a low-level war with the internet since the 1990s when the Nigerian Communications Act of 1999 allowed the government to shut down internet service to parts of the country as they saw fit.
This law has not been changed or challenged since, and the government has used it on several occasions to shut down services to the country. In recent years, the government has been concerned about online fraud, online harassment, and online propaganda by terrorist organizations.
During a meeting with Google executives in Abuja on Thursday, Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, made the plea. The Nigerian government has also complained that anonymous users are posting content that is insulting to the leaders of the country, and that Google has refused to remove it.
The minister said the government was particularly worried about the online activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). IPOB, a group seeking the independence of a southeastern region of Nigeria, has been designated a ‘terrorist organization’.
Lai Mohammed said the group and their affiliates’ YouTube channels use local languages during broadcasts, making censorship difficult.
Google regional director for government affairs and public policy, Charles Murito, said in a statement following Thursday’s meeting, “We do not want our platform to be used for ill purposes.”
This situation is a tense one. Google, as a private company, has the right to decide what content is appropriate for its users all over the world.
The Nigerian government, as the representative of its own citizens, has the right to decide what is appropriate for its citizens. The two groups are both trying to do what they think is right, but they are bumping against each other.
Google has said that it will remove content if it is proven to be illegal locally, but the Nigerian government is saying that they want much broader censorship – not just of content that is illegal, but of content that they think will endanger their citizens.
In addition, to address the Nigerian government’s concerns, he said the firm has a system in place for experienced users to flag inappropriate material.
The authorities in Nigeria have been trying to regulate social media platforms for years because they worry that they are frequently used to foment public unrest.
In June of last year, authorities banned Twitter after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet about cracking down on regional secessionists was deleted.
After seven months, the government restored conditional access to users. There are a large number of social media users in Nigeria on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.
There is a long history of governments trying to restrict what their citizens can see or say online, but this case is particularly interesting because it involves a large private company that has refused to bow to government pressure.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it accessible to everyone. It is not the company’s job to decide what information can be seen by whom.
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